Mini-series: Recordings are only the start: Enhancing information retrieval

dave and James feature
Credit: Pixabay, pixelheart, CC0

At the School of Engineering, Dave Laurenson, James Hopgood and a team of students are exploring ways to enhance engagement with Media Hopper Replay. In this post, they share the findings of their comparative study, funded by a PTAS grant…

The context of this study is based on the awareness that contemporary media consumption, such as on YouTube, is typically through short, focused content, presented as part of a meta-enhanced ‘channel’, which contain descriptions, comments, and recommendations. The project is driven by the desire to encourage students to maximise the technical functionality available on Media Hopper Replay, and to be able to retrieve information efficiently and effectively. This project raises interesting questions that could inform the development of Media Hopper Replay for making it even more useful to our students.

We decided to test the hypothesis that students are more likely to use the advanced features of Media Hopper Replay if they are demonstrated to them, rather than by learning the capabilities through experimentation. We also wanted to find out if segmenting and indexing content would have a positive impact on students’ use of Media Hopper Replay.

This project has three key aims:

  • Investigate the impact of presenting the lecture recordings in a more contemporary way (e.g., short lectures and easy to search).
  • Investigate whether students will use the advanced note-taking functionality embedded in Media Hopper Replay.
  • Quantification of Effort and Further Questions.


The study considered three courses within the same subject stream in Engineering, taught to three different year groups. In two of the courses, the effect of a live demonstration of the system was evaluated by monitoring usage of the system prior to and following the demonstration.

The value of sectioning (segmenting and indexing) lecture content was examined through two mechanisms: the provision of a detailed summary and an index into the Media Hopper Replay content using timestamps for each lecture; and segmentation of content into short (up to 12 minute) videos covering single topics uploaded to Media Hopper Create. The use of these was compared with a third course where neither approach was used.

Findings 1: Use of advanced features and functionality

It might be expected that a live demo of advanced features and functionality might improve uptake. The results of our study prove to be inconclusive. While the live demonstration was well received, students indicated that they were unlikely to use the advanced features. The results show that use of the notes facility, even with encouragement through demonstration, is only being adopted by a very small minority of students studying in this subject stream. Similarly, the flagging of confusing content function has seen little traction. The demonstration does appear to have had a somewhat positive influence in the uptake of the advanced features, however when this is set against the size of the classes, our conclusion is that these features are not being actively used by students. The underlying reason for this is the subject of planned focus group feedback with the same cohort of students now studying in the same subject stream in a later year of the course.

You can view the indexed content here.

Findings 2: Segmentation and indexing

We conducted feedback on the lecture sectioning by questionnaire so that we could evaluate the appeal of different forms of content. Students who benefited from indexing/segmentation of content found this to be a significant improvement and, in fact, this changed their original opinion of the standard Media Hopper Replay offering, which they marked down after having experienced enhanced indexing/segmentation. These findings clearly support the hypothesis that the provision of segmentation or indexing is of benefit to students.

You can view the segmented content here.

Findings 3: Enhanced search functionality

In this last study, students organised lecture content into 5-minute segments – a preference they determined – along with text-based summaries also written by students. These segments were posted to Media Hopper Create so that students could benefit from enhanced search functionality. While the study revealed that students found the segmentation and indexing to be of benefit, they did not like to change platforms (between Media Hopper Create and Media Hopper Relay), even though they showed a preference for lecture content in shorter chunks.


We conducted this study in the knowledge that student consumption of video material is typically through short, focused content, usually as part of a channel, e.g., YouTube. Looking at the whole of the University, lecture recording is used in a very basic form. The lecture is recorded and is indexed in Learn, typically just the course name, a date and time. If you want to go and find something out about a particular lecture, then you would have to remember which lecture, which date it was on and what time it was on.

So if we assume a student wants to find information from a very short clip, and they don’t want to scroll through 50 minutes to find it, how could we enable the students to access that information quickly? Could we automatically index and segment from a single 50-minute lecture? Is there something we could do to make that information more accessible without involving a lot of work on behalf of the lecturer? What might be possible within Media Hopper Replay to avoid channel hopping to Media Hopper Create? These questions could form the basis of a development plan that would make the service even more useful for our students.

Dave and James presented their findings at a LTW Monthly Showcase on 29 March 2018. View a video recording of their presentation (dur: 51 mins).

Are you interested in exploring the use of lecture recording in your School or course? The next PTAS call for lecture recording projects closes on 25 October with a further call next year with a closing date of 21 March 2019. Find out more here.

James Hopgood

James Hopgood is a Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Digital Communication in the School of Engineering. He has almost 15 years experience of teaching undergraduate and masters students, and is Programme Director for the MSc in Signal Processing and Communications. James has been using lecture recording technologies for the last seven years for supporting the student experience. His teaching philosophy is to provide visualisation, intuition, and real-world examples for describing complex topics, while providing teaching materials suitable for a range of learning needs.

Dave Laurenson

Dave Laurenson is a Reader in the Institute for Digital Communication in the School of Engineering. He has over 20 years of experience teaching undergraduate and masters students. His teaching interests include the use of technology to support the learning experience for students, with a particular emphasis on exploration of complex topics through application and simulation based experimentation.

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